|Chapter Title||One More Letter. Call once more before you go, Call once you In a voice that she will knowYarrahappi|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||More about Misrule|
MORE ABOUT MISRULE.*
CHAPTER XXIII.-One More Letter. Call once more before you go, Call once yet In a voice that she will know- "Yarrahappini. "Dearest Meg (wrote Esther),—
By ETHEL TURNER.
"Peter has almost broken my heart. It is all a week ago, and still I wake sobbing in the night. On Sunday for the first time since we have been here I took him up the hill to see
our little grave. He has seen it before as you know, and of course he knows all the sad story. But that morning he seemed to realise it all in a way he never did before. He stood and looked and looked and looked at the little mound, his very soul in his eyes. I tried to draw him away, to interest him in the bush things, for I cannot bear to sadden a child's heart too much, but he kept straying back to the white palings, and leaning his forehead on them and looking through. Yet he said very little, just a few such things as 'She was the one who jumped about the most, wasn't she ? Meg says she never could keep still a second.' And in a whisper,' Mother, I just couldn't lie and lie for ever up here, no one with me.' " Of course I tried to explain the unexplain- able to him, ' the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,' but I could see I had made little impression; his wet eyes saw nothing but eager little Judy leaping to death to save him, and, for it, lying here year after year. " The next day we did not see him all the morning, and as he would not take Essie with him we concluded he had gone to try a harm- less old gun father has given him. I found out later he had been up at the grave all the time. The grave itself is always beautifully kept, but the grass grows long and the leaves fall in the enclosure. The poor child had been working for hours trying to clear those leaves—such a day too, the hottest I ever knew. And mother and I had both scolded him early in the day— you know how she loves and cherishes her roses—he had been down to the bushes and cut off every blossom. When we scolded him he did not say a word, and we thought he had plucked them for some game with Essie; then later we found them all laid thickly on the mound. " At night a frightful thunderstorm came up after the hot day; it rained in torrents, and the wind raged and blew as if it would bring the house down. I went into the children's room about 9 o'clock, thinking they might have wakened with so much noise. Essie was sound asleep in the cot, but Peter's bed was empty. We searched the house in alarm; then I saw a side door open and an instinct told me where he was. Father and I put on our mackintoshes and got a lantern, and I ran, ran with a throbbing heart all the way up the hill, with the rain in my face and the thunder trashing overhead, and there was my poor little boy crouching beside the grave. "' Peter.' I sobbed, as I snatched him up. " ' It's all right, mother,' he said with chat- tering teeth, ' don't worry, I put my dressing- gown and slippers on.' And so he had; the little felt slippers were pulp; the gray gown was soaked through and through. Father carried him down the hill, and he sobbed all the way because we wouldn't leave him a little longer, undressed him and gave him a hot bath, crying like a baby myself all the time—l felt I could never stop again. And than I wrapped him in a blanket and sat in a rocking-chair by the fire with him, and he was no longer my great lad who goes about with a gun and cracks a stock- whip, but just my little boy baby again, cuddling up to my heart, my little boy baby that Judy gave back to me. And we talked in whispers to each other, and the firelight was the only light in the room, and gradually he told me all. How he had wakened and been frightened at the thunder—his cheeks grew red as he confessed this—and how he re- membered Judy was out in all the storm, lying lone, alone on the hilltop; and how he had crept to the window and looked out at the wild, black trees fighting with the wind, and the clouds sweeping across the sky, and the rain blowing in gusts at the window. " 'And I thought if I just went and sat beside her a little time she wouldn't feel so dreadfully lonely ', he whispered, 'that's all, mother; it wasn't much to do tor her. I called to her that I was there and I know she heard.' " He had bronchitis the next day, which was the least I expected; thank heaven, it was a try light attack, and he is mending fast and is just his mischievous, noisy self again. The whole affair seems to have slipped from his mind, and he spars with Essie and oracks his whip in bed and insists upon having his gun beside him to clean twiee a day. "But I am five years older for the shook, and if a door bangs I burst out crying. "Oh, Meg, Meg, the child is best where she is—little Judy, I mean; I had clear vision of that yesterday when I went up to her. She would have loved and suffered and lived as one of her nature must have done. And oh the peace, yesterday, on her hill-top, and oh the wise, tender evening sky brooding down over her, and the young stars coming out to watch, and the soft air that seams full of her ! " I kissed her grass and smoothed it, and looked up to the shining stars, her eyes, and thanked God inasmuch as He had let me see that all had been for the best."
CHAPTER XXIV—All Awheel. "Smiles the earth and smiles the waters, Smile the cloudless skies above us. "Never saw such a tire," said Bunty, "it's as soft as squash. How do you think you're going to ride thirty miles on that?" "I did pump it up," said Nell. But she was quite content to leave it to brotherly ministrations, and she leisurely put on her thin gloves and settled her sailor hat, and felt happy in the consciousness that her cycling skirt hung beautifully. * The sole right of serial publication in Queensland has been secured by the pro- prietors of the "Queenslander."
"You don't find Poppet starting off with tires like that," said Bunty; "here you've got the best bicycle that money could buy—old Seville must have given forty pounds for this 'trifling Easter egg,' as he calls it, and as long as the handle-bars are brilliant that's all you care." Nell gave him her sweetest smile. "I'm not inconsiderate enough to deprive you of the pleasure of doing it for me," she said. Bunty gave a final pump. " I could just survive the disappointment," he said. " Have you got all your tools—well, I'm blessed !" " You let my tool-bag alone," said Nell, but Bunty overhauled it ruthlessly. "Just like Nell," he said. "I say, Pip, she's left her spanner and oil-can and wrench behind, and put in a clothes-brush and a finnicky brush and comb and looking-glass, and a sponge." "Well," said Nellie, "and why should one be a dust-covered object even if one does ride ? I propose to borrow your tools if I need them." Bunty grinned. " All right, and I'll borrow the looking-glass and see if my cap's straight every mile or two." Poppet came wheeling her bicycle down the drive. Poppet in a well-worn serge frock and a straw hat that was sunburnt and ancient to a degree, but had the merit of keeping the sky's glare from her eyes. "Oh, Poppet," said Nell, " that awful hat ! Why Flibbertigibbet was worrying it on the lawn the other night." Poppet put her hand to it jealously. " What's the matter with it ? It's a beautiful hat." she said. " You'll want to change with me before we've gone a mile," and she looked dis- paragingly at her sister's neat, spotless one with its narrow brim. Bunty looked Poppet over with pride. " She's all right," he said, " and if you thought less of your hat and more of your riding you'd get along faster. You've taken three times as long to learn as Poppet did, and you still pedal like the girls who hire bikes for half a day, and you jam your brake down and hold back for your life down a hill no one else sees is there." " She's all right," said Pip. " Poppet gets up to too many tricks—shell smash herself up one of these days coasting down Red Hill, or going about with her hands off." Esther and Meg came down with the four light cases they had been filling with sand- wiches and similar light refreshments; for the party had a thirty-mile ride down the coast before it, then it was to pass the night at the house of a country friend of the family, and ride back the next day. By Meg's side, trotting along on his fat little legs that he had only just begun to use for purposes of locomotion, came Little Boy; Meg and he had come to spend the day at Misrule, for Alan was to be of the bicycle party all the first day, returning, however, in time for patients the next morning. " Hello, Mr. Podsnap," said Pip, picking up the small nephew and riding him up and down the footpath to that young person's in- tense satisfaction. The group at the gate grew. Peter and Essie came pedalling down on their gay coloured tricycles; they were only to accom- pany the cyclists half-a-mile on their way, but they were properly equipped. Each dangled a packet of sandwiches at the handle-bars, and a luggage parcel behind them. Peter wore the tops of his stockings turned down in vain emulation of Pip, and Essie had fastened a pair of Bunty's clips to the top of her socks. " Aren't we ready," said Bunty impatiently; " always the way, half the day wasted if you take girls." " As it happens, it is for a member of your own noble sex we are waiting," Nell said : " when Alan deigns to put in appearance we are complete." But she glanced down the road as if not quite satisfied with her own statement " Alan ran to Enid, of course," said Meg; "he will not be many minutes." " I thought Twynam was coming," Pip said. Nellie began to examine the contents of her tool-bag. " Oh, that chap doesn't know his own mind, said Bunty; "asked to come on Thursday, said he didn't think he could on Friday, went in and bought a new bicycle on Saturday, and yesterday said he thought he'd stop at home." "Oh," said Poppet, "that's lucky. It's much nicer just ourselves and no strangers, isn't it, Nell?" "Of course." said Nell with heightened colour. "Well, he's changed his mind again, for here he comes," said Pip, as a figure in gray appeared on the brow of the hill, " and I'm not sorry, for he's got my best pump. " Nellie began to arrange her tool-bag again with great care. "And here's Alan at last," said Poppet. Down the next drive came the young doctor, all the Saville family with him—the squatter, serene and ruddy-faced, smoking, and Enid, bright-eyed and loving, hanging on to his arm; Mrs. Saville beside him, looking years younger and wonderfully handsome; Lylie running to gaze at the adored Poppet; Jack on his tricycle to swell the smaller party. " Thought you weren't coming," said Bunty, as Twynam jumped off and went to shake hands with the Misrule group. The man's colour deepened. " I am not," he said; " correspondence—English mail— obliged to stay. Only ran down to return your pump, Woolcot—thought you'd need it." The Saville contingent had drawn near by this, and greetings passed between gate and gate. In the confusion of so many on the pathway, it is not to be wondered at that Twy- nam found himself near Nellie. "So you are not coming," she said lightly. "The mail," he said, "English mail—my letters." "Oh yes, of course," said Nellie, "aren't you foolish to have wasted time coming down with the pump—Pip has another one." The man's face was quite white; Nellie was moving her machine from the fence, and no one was very near. "You know that isn't the reason." he said. " You know that I simply dare not; that two such days would be more than I could bear." Nellie bumped her bicycle into the fence, and dragged it away and wheeled it in an erratic fashion to the edge of the footpath. He fol-
lowed her, manipulating his machine still more clumsily. "I should only be in your way, shouldn't I?" he said; "you would rather I did not come." Nellie put one neat foot on the pedal, and began to arrange her skirt for the saddle. "It's an open road," she said, " there might be room for you, unless you ride very badly." The man went whiter than ever. "Nellie," he said, " Nellie, it is life or death with me—don't trifle. Tell me to go back to my work, the only thing I'm fitted for." Nellie's hand trembled a little—the hand she was just ready to push off with as she jumped up to her saddle. " Tell me to go back," he repeated, his voice thick with emotion. " I—l can't be so rude," said Nellie, very low, very, very low. "What?" he said, taking a giant stride after her. But Nell, the very tips of her ears suffused with sweet, shamed colour, had sprung to her saddle and gone pedaling for dear life up the hill after Bunty, who, in disgust at all the dallying, had started off with Poppet. And now all the line of wheels was on the red road, and good-byes were called from the gates, and the sky smiled down on the happy young faces, and all the waves of the river, left behind, laughed and leaped to catch a glimpse of them. "I thought you weren't coming,"Bunty said, looking over his shoulder and finding Twynam riding hard behind. "I changed my mind again," said Twynam. Nellie shot on ahead. Far behind, Peter and Essie and Jack toiled at their little wheels. Sometimes they got off and pulled them along; sometimes the big bicycles waited for them to catch up, for all knew they were to be of the party as far as the cross-roads. Farther behind still, at the gate, the Major stood, and regarded his first grandchild as thoughtfully as the child regarded him. It was taking him a long time to get quite used to the relationship, but still the feeling, when the small man occasionally grasped at his leg for support, was a pleasurable one. Meg and Esther's eyes were on the far hill where the wheels looked now like a line of large black ants. Up, up and over the brow they went one after the other, and then the puff of dust went down and the hill showed speckless. " Well, that's the last of them," said Esther. " The very last," said Meg. The Major turned his face to the house and lent a finger to the boy. " You've left the gate open," he said, half way up the drive, to Meg and Esther, who had entered it before him. But there sprang up a gust of eager wind, and the next moment the Misrule gate swung to with a crash. [The End.]